Accepting but Not Engaging with It: Digital Participation in Local Government-Run Social Credit Systems in China

37 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2022

See all articles by Haili Li

Haili Li

Freie Universität Berlin

Genia Kostka

Freie Universität, Berlin

Date Written: March 25, 2022

Abstract

China’s central and municipal governments have consistently facilitated the development of social credit systems (SCSs) over the past decade. While research has highlighted the Chinese public’s high approval of and support for SCSs, their engagement with these digital projects has not been fully explored. Based on 64 semi-structured interviews, our research examines Chinese citizens’ digital participation in local government-run SCSs. Our findings suggest that, despite perceiving SCSs as accepting and positive, most interviewees do not actively engage with local government-run SCSs. Multiple factors can explain the gap between high acceptance and low participation, including a lack of awareness regarding local SCSs, a perception that registering and maintaining a decent credit score requires major effort, various concerns over SCSs (e.g., information privacy and safety, as well as algorithm accuracy and fairness), clarity of rules and guidelines, potential risks, unappealing benefits offered by SCSs, and the voluntariness of participating in local SCSs. Our research adds to the existing literature on digital governance in authoritarian contexts by explaining why Chinese citizens do not necessarily engage with state-promoted digital projects.

Keywords: social credit systems (SCSs); digital participation; barriers; privacy concerns; awareness; China

JEL Classification: P00, O38, O33, O53, O18, H79, H10, H81

Suggested Citation

Li, Haili and Kostka, Genia, Accepting but Not Engaging with It: Digital Participation in Local Government-Run Social Credit Systems in China (March 25, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4066462 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4066462

Haili Li

Freie Universität Berlin ( email )

Hittorfstraße 18
Berlin, 14195
Germany
+49 30 838 59472 (Phone)

Genia Kostka (Contact Author)

Freie Universität, Berlin ( email )

Boltzmannstr. 3
Berlin, 14195
Germany

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